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Oil prices rise

Oil prices rose yesterday for a third day running as fears of supply disruption amid heightened tensions in the Middle East overshadowed swelling US crude inventories.

Brent crude futures were up 97 cents, or 1,4 percent, at $72,72 a barrel at 7:21 a.m. ET (1121 GMT). Brent, the international benchmark for oil prices, is heading for its biggest weekly rise in six weeks.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 82 cents, or 1,3 percent, to $62,84 per barrel.

Oil was drawing support from the risk of conflict in the Middle East, with helicopters carrying US staff from the US embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday out of apparent concern over perceived threats from Iran.

“Brent looks poised to breach the upper bound of its recent $70-$73 a barrel price range as bullish headlines from the (Mideast) Gulf continue worrying investors,” Citi said in a note.

An end this month to US waivers that allowed some countries to buy Iranian oil after the re-imposition of US sanctions has prompted Tehran to relax restrictions on its nuclear program and threaten action that could breach a 2015 nuclear deal.

An attack on four oil tankers in the Gulf on Sunday, for which no one has claimed responsibility, and Saudi Arabia’s announcement that armed drones hit two of its oil pumping stations, have compounded concerns have stoked supply-side fears.

Asian shippers and refiners have put ships heading to the Middle East on alert and are expecting a possible rise in marine insurance premiums after the attacks.

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